Colm Doyle, 31: ‘Technology is my life. I can’t fathom a world without computers’

 Photograph: Eric Luke

Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Colm Doyle lives in Rathfarnham, Dublin

I grew up in Rathgar. Our house had a ridiculously complex phone system. There was one in every room. I think my mum took an office phone system and installed it in our house for the craic. I got my first mobile when I was in transition year. It was a big chunky Ericsson, but I only knew maybe two other people who had phones, so there was hardly anyone I could ring.

The school I went to had a computer room. I spent an obscene amount of time in there.

I went to the IT at Tallaght and studied computers. We all assumed there would be jobs at the end. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get a job: you’d get a job, buy an apartment, then sell it and buy a house. That’s how society is supposed to be: you work hard and you get nice things.

The problem with any computer-studies curriculum is that by the time they’ve been approved they can never move fast enough to keep up with the industry. I took a year out and worked for the students’ union.

When I think of college I don’t think of such and such a computer skill I learned: I think of the student-union team and the leadership I learned there. I called it Student Union Land. I never finished my degree. In technology it’s all about what you’ve done rather than what your piece of paper says.

In 2008 I went for a job with McConnells advertising agency. I started as a dogsbody in their IT department. The year 2008 was the start of the fun with the economy. After about nine months there there was a round of layoffs. I was told I’d be laid off and be paid a month’s notice.

I said that if they going to pay me for the next 30 days anyway I’d keep working for those 30 days, as long as they gave me time off to go to interviews. Word got around the office to various managers about this person who was going to work out his notice – and, as it happened, someone else was leaving, and I was offered a programming job as a result.

I worked there until 2010, and then I went to Facebook. I did eight different interviews for the job, between Skype and one-on-one interviews. Working at Facebook was like working at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Ruth and I got together in 2005 and got married in 2012. Facebook sent me to California, and I was there for two years, in Palo Alto. Our son was born in the States. Our big take-away from that job is his US passport.

I compare Palo Alto to Florence during the Renaissance: why wouldn’t an artist want to stay there? We could have stayed in California, and Facebook would have sponsored visas for us. But we are Irish, and we wanted our son to think of himself as Irish.

Technology is my life. I can’t fathom a world without computers. I’d freak out if I had no access to technology for a month. I don’t really make a distinction between work and play: I write software all day, and then I come home and write more software.

If I was born in a world without computers I don’t know what I would have done.

My wife stays at home with our son, so I make all of the income for our family. I like there to be a pay cheque at the end of the month. I wouldn’t like to run my own business.

I left Facebook last September. I had been there for four and a half years, which is an aeon in this industry. When I left I had been there longer than 93.6 per cent of the rest of the people who worked there. I was paid very well, there were three meals a day and people thought that I was crazy because I wasn’t leaving for another job.

I left with a grand plan to take a long time off. I lasted two months. I read a blog post by the guy I work for now, at a sports technology company, and I met him for a coffee. I wasn’t looking for a job, but that’s what happened.

My son is two, and already he can use an iPad better than my parents can. I’m not afraid of him using an iPad as long as Google doesn’t replace the thinking for him.

I’m baptised, but my son isn’t. I’m almost religiously anti-religion. He’s only two, but him not being baptised is already an issue for schools. I don’t mind him getting religious instruction at school, and I wouldn’t mind him going to a religious school, but I won’t baptise him to get him into a school. I’d move back to California before we’d baptise him just to get him into a school.

My wife’s family are Gaeilgeoirs, so we’re sending him to a Gaelscoil. That almost trumps the religious thing, because there is one only kind of school in Dublin that’s harder to get into than any of the rest, and that is a Gaelscoil.

The thing that disappoints me about our generation is that we’re not politically involved. Student Union Land ingrained politics into me. We were always trying to get students to realise that they are part of the biggest voting cohort in the country.

There’s apathy and people complaining about politics and then doing nothing about it. I’ve very little tolerance for intolerance.

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